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What’s The Problem with Plastic

Plastic is a versatile material, and for some uses there is no alternative. However, it is so durable that when it gets into the environment it does not break down. Sadly this is leading to the deaths of birds, fish, whales and other animals. All the bits of plastic in the picture below were found inside this one albatross.
Albatross, and the plastic found inside it

Plastic is now playing the role of both ‘predator’ and ‘prey’. This 3-minute video describes the range of problems this causes.

MicrofibresMicrofibres

Ali Kempson looks at microfibres – what are they and why do we need to know about them?

Sixty percent of clothes are synthetic, and every time these clothes are washed, microfibres – or pieces of plastic smaller than a grain of rice – are released into the wastewater. These pieces of plastic either end up in the sea, in rivers or – through sewage solids – on the land.

This might be manageable if the numbers were small but scientists are estimating that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic worldwide, 95% of which are microfibres. The small sizes of the particles means that the potential damage is greater: any animals from minute aquatic life upwards can ingest the plastic. This is likely to mean that the level of toxins increase the higher up the food chain you go. This is similar to how birds of prey were killed in the 1960s and ’70s by eating small rodents contaminated with DDT. Microfibres are already being found in the fish we eat and the potential for those fish to become toxic to us is high.

This diagram is from the Mermaids Life+ Project:

Flow chart about microfibres from Mermaids Life+ http://life-mermaids.eu/en/what-can-you-do-en/

So what can we do about it?

Limit the amount of microfibres leaving your washing machine by…

  • Using a Guppy Friend bag or Cora Ball when you wash clothes (both available soon). Or consider buying a washing machine lint filter.Washing machine

  • Washing at lower temperatures releases fewer microfibres, as does washing synthetic clothes less often and for a shorter duration.

  • Washing a full load results in less friction between the clothes and fewer fibres released.

  • Consider switching to a liquid laundry soap. Laundry powder “scrubs” and loosens more microfibres.

  • Buy clothes made from natural fibres, which will break down in the environment. Plastic fibres will never go away.

  • Dry your clothes on a line if possible.

  • If you use a tumble dryer, place any lint in the bin instead of washing it down the drain. Dry spinning at low revs reduces friction.

Campaign:

  • Here’s a petitions about microfibres from The Story of Stuff.

  • Share this information with your friends.

Find out more:

Watch ‘The Story of Microfibres‘ (3 minute video) or read their article. The tips came from this article by the Plastic Pollution Coalition. They also have information about other types of plastic, and how to live without it. Here’s another article about microfibres and one about Guppy Friend bags.

 

Images: Flow Chart ‘This is the problem…’ about microfibres, from Mermaids Ocean Clean Wash (used with permission), Microfibres image (labelled for non-commercial reuse), Washing machine from Pixabay by Noupload, Plastic ocean from Flickr by Tim Zim.

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